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New Electronic Bullet Can Change Direction Mid-Flight

A Defense Department has been busy testing what may be one of the greatest innovations for snipers to enter the market: .50-caliber bullets capable of changing direction after being fired, Stars and Stripes reports.

The program, developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), is called Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordinance (EXACT) and has now moved out of the speculative phase after successful tests. Sniper accuracy will likely never be the same again, but exactly how it all works is a closely guarded secret.

The tests were successfully conducted in February and April of this year, and DARPA is set to hand over the program to the Defense Department shortly, in order to improve sniper accuracy in Afghanistan, which has presented challenge after challenge because of a dusty environment and highly variable wind speeds. While M107 rifles which fire .50-caliber rounds can technically make the distance of 2,000 meters, the level of accuracy needed to hit between a foot-wide space is incredible, and snipers continue to perform inconsistently.

In the summer, Phase II of the program added modifications based on initial testing earlier in the year to further solidify the results.

“The system combines a maneuverable bullet and a real-time guidance system to track and deliver the projectile to the target, allowing the bullet to change path during flight to compensate for any unexpected factors that may drive it off course,” a statement from DARPA said.

So far, accuracy standards have been met up to 1.2 miles. The bullets contain electronic systems which act as optical sensors to receive information mid-flight. Before the bullet hits the target, the information can be used to change the fins of the bullet, allowing the ability to combat wind speeds or bullet drop.

Experts still couldn’t make heads or tails of it, since the information DARPA released was purposely left vague.

“I don’t know if you push a button and it takes over,” professor emeritus Ted Gatchel at the Naval War College said. “I just couldn’t find out enough about the system to know how it works.” The only question Gatchel has been wrestling with is not the morality of the device, but whether it can feasibly be integrated into existing practices.

According to Gatchel, snipers already have a lot of gear to carry and whether they can carry more remains to be seen. What seems certain is that while the technology will likely be a major boost, snipers will still have to be trained in the traditional rigors of their discipline before successfully using new weapons systems.

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